2.20.2008

SINKING HOUSE by T. C. Boyle

This is a rare story because it is told though two competing close 3rd person narrators, Meg and Muriel. This narrative device is sometimes called Duel Omniscience.

Duel Omniscience is an underused point of view. The requirements are simple enough, but difficult to execute well, two narrators must be given equal time and play off one another in a way that complicates a moment in time.

In the “Sinking House,” Meg and Muriel are at opposite ends of their respective lives. One is young and has a young husband. She has everything to look forward to; however there is trouble brewing. The other is much older and on the last leg of her life. Her husband is gone. She lives in her memories. This is the parallel we are to see between them.

However, the present action is much different. Meg has muddy shoes because Muriel is over watering her yard and the water is under the fence. When Meg meets Muriel, Meg notices that Muriel’s carpet is wet and so are Muriel’s slippers. Meg can also hear water running in the house.

The water in the house is Muriel’s grief over her own life and the life of her husband. The only thing that makes her happy is the running water. It is as if the entire house is grieving with her.

If you are looking for a sad and wacky story that demonstrates an excellent use of the Duel perspective, this is the one for you.

Enjoy. I did.

Boyle, T. C. “Sinking House.” T.C. Boyle Stories. New York: Penguin, 1999. p. 292

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